Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Homelessness Bill 2012 (Commonwealth)

The Commonwealth Government has released for comment its draft Homelessness Bill 2012.

The Bill expresses some fine sentiments, such as in relation to the Commonwealth's 'aspiration... that all persons living in Australia have access to adequate housing' (clause 7), and its commitment to certain 'service delivery outcomes' for homeless persons (clause 9).  

Unfortunately, that's all they are – sentiments. That's because of clause 13 of the Bill:

13  Act does not create or give rise to rights or obligations
(1) This Act does not, by its terms or operation, create or give rise to
any rights (whether substantive or procedural), or obligations, that are legally enforceable in judicial or other proceedings.  
(2) No action, suit or proceeding is to be instituted in reliance on the
terms of this Act or the operation of this Act.

This escape clause is unworthy of the Bill. We don't doubt the Commonwealth Government's commitment to dealing with homelessness... but does the Government?

Making the rights of homeless persons to housing services justiciable and enforceable would help drive positive change in service provision, and go some way to achieving the Commonwealth's stated 'aspirations' and 'commitments'.

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